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Thursday, March 11, 2021

Sam Vinson wins 9th Region Player of the Year as Highlands Hits Another 20-Win Season

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Highlands senior standout, Sam Vinson, was named the 9th Region Player of the Year and candidate for Mr. Kentucky basketball today. 

Vinson, who has committed to Northern Kentucky University to play basketball last season, is the only player in Highlands basketball history to score 1,500 points, grab 500 rebounds and dish out 300 assists. 

For the team, it's been an uncommon year where it became common for teams to call off games as a result of Coronavirus 2019 precautions, it did not stop the Highlands Bluebirds boys basketball team (20-4 overall) from various feats.

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands junior Oliver Harris looks to make a pass in the non-region game Tuesday.

Highlands reached the 20-win mark for the third straight season with a convincing 94-57 win over the Cincinnati Trailblazers home school team in the final home game of the regular season. The Bluebirds earned the 20th win in front of about 30 students who have not been able to attend games this year.

The Trailblazers have played two teams out of the 9th Region. They lost 79-72 at Covington Holy Cross on Feb. 23.

"That group did not quit and they did not quit (Wednesday)," said Kevin Listerman, Highlands Head Coach. "We shot it very, very well. When you have a good group of shooters, people get hungry to get their own shot and this group has not done that. They have done a good job understanding what is a good shot, what is a great shot and they enjoy watching the others make shots as much as they do making their own. They're just a fun bunch to coach."

The Bluebirds put five players in double figures. Sophomore guard Will Herald led the way this game with 19 points making 5-of-6 three-point tries to go with three assists. Senior forward Luke Muller scored 18 points making four triples.

Highlands senior point guard Sam Vinson had another double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds to go with five assists, one blocked shot and a steal. Junior guard Zach Barth scored 11 points making three three-pointers and senior guard Daniel Buchanan scored 10 points. Junior guard Leyton Read added nine.

"It's all about our ball movement because we pass up good shots for better shots," Buchanan said. "The more we pass the ball, the better the percentage is going to be."

All 15 players saw action in the game. The Bluebirds only shot two free throws and junior guard Austin Duncan made both of them.

"It's awesome having everybody out on the court no matter what the score is, everyone is cheering you on whether it's the first quarter, fourth quarter or we're down by two or up by 30," said Abe Hils, Highlands junior guard. "The family atmosphere is awesome. Having fans here with the seniors was great."

Highlands made 37-of-59 shots for 63 percent including 18-of-25 from three-point range for 72 percent. The Bluebirds also had 30 rebounds, 20 assists, eight steals, one blocked shot and just eight turnovers.

Senior guard Hayden Haines led the Trailblazers with 17 points. Senior guard Elisha Moore followed with 10. The Trailblazers made 21-of-51 shots for 42 percent including 6-of-20 from three-point range for 30 percent and 7-of-10 free throws for 70 percent. They also had 19 rebounds, one blocked shot, six assists, four steals and 11 turnovers.

"I think our defensive focus, especially in the first half, was very, very good," Listerman said. "We've done some things where we're trying to take some things away from the team that we're playing. Our kids are starting to understand what those little things are. That's what I really like to see. We're able to make some adjustments in our press in terms of our personnel and where we want to trap and how. They make a big difference. When we get out in transition, we're awfully dangerous."

Highlands concludes the regular season at Walton-Verona on Thursday. Game time is 7 p.m.

Basketball, Girls:
Franklin County 46, Highlands 45:

The Bluebirds (17-6) led most of this game against the host Lady Flyers (12-5).

But with 3.9 seconds left, Franklin County senior point guard and University of Tennessee commit Brooklynn Miles made 1-of-2 free throws to make final score. One final Highlands shot at the buzzer did not go in.

Miles finished with eight. She averages 16.5 points per game. But junior center/forward Patience Lester scored 14 and sophomore forward Jhaven Meade scored 12.

Franklin County made 18-of-49 shots for 37 percent including 3-of-14 from three-point range for 21 percent and 7-of-11 free throws for 64 percent. The Lady Flyers also had 33 rebounds, 13 assists, six steals, one blocked shot, eight turnovers and 15 personal fouls.

Highlands senior Kelsey Listerman scored a team-high 13 points. Senior guard Emma Mallery made three three-pointers on her way to nine points.

The Bluebirds made 15-of-42 shots for 36 percent including 3-of-5 from three-point range for 60 percent and 12-of-16 free throws for 75 percent. They also had 29 rebounds, seven assists, three steals, three blocked shots, 10 turnovers and 10 fouls.

Highlands plays in the 36th District semifinals at Dayton on March 16 against either Newport or Dayton. Game time is 8 p.m.

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